Paris, France, 3-6 June 1998
on World Water Resources at the Beginning of the 21st Century
Conclusions and Recommendations
Water Quality and Environmental Impact
Data and Improvement of Water Resources Assessment
Impact of Human Activity on Water Resources
Extremes of Water Resources and their Management
Economic and Social Aspects of Water
Quality and Environmental Impact
We are facing a water quality crisis. Almost one-quarter of
the world population lacks a safe supply of water and half the population lacks adequate
sanitation. Millions of people die annually from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water
and lack of sanitation. While this crisis is most pronounced in the developing countries,
the developed world and economies in transition also experience major environmental
problems and human health consequences. These have a serious impact on nations' economies.
Reduced water quality has a severe negative impact on
ecosystems and habitats that support plant and animal life. Most of our freshwater
ecosystems are degraded and their plant and animal populations are at risk. Deterioration
of water quality decreases the suitability of water for all purposes and increases the
cost of making it available for use, especially for human consumption. It also decreases
the value of the legacy we leave to future generations.
Water quality degradation is a consequence of human
activities, land use practices and economic development. Land use practices affect the
quality of waters in our streams, lakes, groundwater and ultimately the marine
environment. Water quality monitoring is not yet developed in some countries, in others it
is in decline.
Experience has shown that it is within our ability to slow
and reverse water quality degradation, to improve human health and ecosystem integrity. To
accomplish this, aggressive, positive and timely policies and actions are needed. We have
a moral obligation to ensure that future generations inherit a world with clean water and
a healthy environment.
Water quality and quantity are two aspects of water,
interdependent and inseparable in all matters of monitoring and management. Therefore,
global water assessment should be expanded to cover water quality, including the effects
of climate change.
Surface and groundwaters are interconnected parts of the
water cycle and should be studied and managed jointly in a holistic approach.
Some quality issues are affected by global processes and
long-range transport, and should be addressed by global actions (e.g. acidification).
Monitoring programs should take into account
bio-magnification processes in food chains when used to determine the fate and effects of
Wetlands are important elements of the environment and
can be effective means for water quality treatment.
Water quality should not be neglected, even in the face
of adverse economic conditions, with proper consideration of priorities of human needs.
There is a need for simple protocols for baseline
ecological and chemical data gathering and analysis, which are adjusted regionally.
Systems for measuring, monitoring, analysing, summarizing
and disseminating water quality information should be strengthened and supported. The
international community is called upon to provide help. The recommended density is at
least 1 station per 100,000 people, the desirable level is 1 station per 10,000.
Hydrological and quality monitoring in large-scale
socio-economic development plans should be emphasized.
Water quality studies should be global and
process-oriented. They should consider land use and combine site-specific studies in an
integrated watershed management framework which considers local socio-economic and
The different hydrological and hydro-chemical conditions
(e.g. humid versus arid and semi-arid zones) should be recognized in studies, land and
water management and policies.
Many water quality issues are local. They require local
study, monitoring, policies and management.
There are still gaps in understanding the links between
freshwater microbiology and hydrological processes and water quality.
Important emerging issues include micro-organic
pollutants and micro-organisms.
Potable water quality and sanitation are high priorities
for developing countries. Dealing with them requires inter-agency collaboration.
It is wise to learn from past successes and failures and
adjust policies to local conditions for monitoring, water quality criteria, land use and
It is necessary to build capacity at the public,
professional and institutional levels.
The links between water quality and human health should
be dealt with in an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional manner.
Water quality laws, wherever they exist, should be
Public awareness and public participation are important
elements of policies and actions for water quality management and environmental
The agricultural community should be encouraged to
support the reduction of non-point pollution.
and Improvement of Water Resources Assessment
To minimize the risk that the decisions of resource
managers will fail to provide water of adequate quality and quantity at the right time and
in the right place, and hence submit their communities to the consequences of
water-related hazards such as floods, droughts, pollution events and outbreaks of
water-borne diseases, better information about water is required because information is
the antidote to uncertainty.
Water specialists should educate themselves about the
needs of the people who use their products, continually seek more effective ways of making
their information available and useful, and educate users about the benefits of water
All relevant components of the hydrological system should
be considered and interdependencies among those components taken into account. Surface and
groundwaters should be considered as two complementary components of the same resource. In
addition to 'conventional' measurements of precipitation, streamflow and groundwater
level, information should be provided on such aspects as glacier dynamics, soil moisture,
the geological characteristics of aquifers, the flora and fauna present in water bodies
and the presence of contaminants. An integrated approach to database and information
management should be adopted.
The scales, in time and space, on which water-related
measurements are made should be appropriate to the characteristic scales of the phenomena
under consideration and the expected use of the information. Information on global and
country scales is appropriate for the development of international and national policies
but water management decisions are commonly made on smaller scales and within the
framework of river basins and aquifers. Future water resources assessments should reflect
Indicators of the status and trend of water resources
should be developed to provide information that is user-friendly and comprehensible to
non-specialists. Opportunities should continually be explored to ensure that data obtained
for one purpose are made available for other purposes.
Because water scarcity reflects a mismatch between
availability and demand, information on the patterns of water demand and use should
receive particular attention. In sum, all the 'stocks and flows' - natural and artificial
- in the hydrological system should be quantified to the extent that resource managers are
able to determine the effect of manipulation in one part of the system on other parts.
Water-related information should be managed within the framework of the system under
consideration, normally the river basin/aquifer system.
The management of water-related information should be
integrated with that of information about related aspects of the biophysical environment
(e.g. the requirements of migratory birds), human society (e.g. the recreational and
amenity values of water courses) and the economy (e.g. food production, industrial use of
process water). Water-related information should be integrated into the development of
strategies and action plans for comprehensive environmental management.
Efforts should continue to be directed towards
understanding the physical and biological processes that control how hydrological systems
function. A commensurate increase in data collection will be required, in terms of both
the length of record and the range of variables. This will provide, inter alia, the
ability to develop models which can be used to extrapolate to locations for which no
observational data are available. Particular effort is required in hitherto neglected
environments, including mountainous and glaciated areas, extremely arid areas, wetlands
and individually small features such as brooks and ponds which collectively have great
significance for hydrological and ecological processes.
Maintenance of basic monitoring programmes in
representative or strategic locations is essential, to enable 'early warning'
identification of long-term trends and to support the development and testing of
hydrological models. The lessons of history - that emerging environmental issues have not
always been anticipated by policy makers but frequently first identified by scientists -
should never be forgotten.
Formal quality assurance procedures for observational
data and model implementation should be established, including adoption of appropriate
common standards and documentation of procedures. Estimates of uncertainty should as a
rule be made for observational data, water balances and model outputs.
Information should be available not simply on average
conditions but also on the variability of water resources in time and space. There should
be a particular focus on actual or potential stresses or 'crises' as, for example, the
hydrological extremes of flood and drought, the locations where there is an extreme
mismatch between supply and demand, and water bodies potentially subject to an ecological
crisis such as an algal bloom. Such 'crisis' situations should always have real-time
information (now-casts and forecasts) to hand.
The potential of modern computing, remote sensing and
information management technologies should be fully utilized to:
make inexpensive, routine observations and
measurements that were hitherto unfeasible (e.g. of spatial distributions of soil moisture
using satellite imagery);
develop computer-based methods (models,
GIS) which can describe, explain and predict the behaviour of hydrological systems to the
levels of accuracy and confidence required by decision makers. Intercomparison of models
using standardized datasets should receive high priority;
develop economical procedures for
combining 'real world' observations with the outputs of computer models;
provide up-to-date directories of water
data and information, and how to access them;
display water-related information in a way
that is readily understood by non-specialists.
International efforts should be encouraged to establish
regional and global monitoring and data management systems such as WHYCOS (World
Hydrological Cycle Observing System), the GRDC (Global Runoff Data Centre, Germany) and
GEMS/Water (Global Environmental Monitoring System).
Objective assessments of the capabilities of agencies,
policies, laws and other aspects of the water management system - as well as of the water
resource itself - should be available because the ability to manage water successfully,
particularly under 'crisis' conditions, is not simply a function of the status of the
New ways should be sought to finance the provision of
water-related data and information. These may include, for example, levies on water users
which are specifically allocated to resource monitoring and research, or the closer
linkage of water monitoring with 'state of the environment reporting'. The issue of
intellectual property rights to water information must be resolved urgently.
of Human Activity on Water Resources
Any assessment of how much of the impact on water resources
is exclusively of human origin and how much is induced by natural variability must
consider the regional hydrological characteristics, particularly valid when referring to
the arid and semi-arid regions, and the humid tropics. Impact analysis of human activity
should serve as a basis for identifying appropriate mitigation schemes.
In defining water uses and water needs, computing methods
need to be harmonized. Rainfall as an input is generally not taken into account.
Time and spatial scales need to be evaluated, especially
in terms of groundwater-related issues.
In addition, concepts like 'water exploitation' are used
ambiguously, which prevents an objective interpretation of available data or reports.
Institutional reforms are necessary to address the
increasing stress on water resources.
Sustainable water resources development requires an
increase in stakeholder participation as, for example, in the establishment of river basin
Public awareness needs to be strengthened at all levels.
Most regions where the impact of human activity is strong
require new water laws, introducing such concepts as sustainable development and sound
Regulations and implementation of water laws need to be
strengthened through institutional reform and capacity building.
Effective policies for water resources protection are
required, especially in the case of groundwater.
A multi-criteria approach should be introduced in
decision-making processes and in defining policies at local, national and regional levels.
There is a need for capacity building at all levels. This
means the introduction of new multidisciplinary approaches in all the sciences, including
natural and social sciences.
of Water Resources and their Management
Water resources are one of the primary driving forces of
sustainable development, with the extremes of water resources emerging as the most urgent
Although many approaches have been used in the past, the measures for determining
the consequence and implication of water scarcity for human and ecological well-being are
not standardized nor are they well accepted. Policy analysis should be conducted using
computer-based reasoning supported by models and methods with scientific integrity,
transparent enough to be easily understood, with participation of stakeholders and
experts, proper consideration of the social dimension, and with focus on an integrated
The time horizon of potential problems should be divided
into three time frames:
short term (days to weeks): floods, weather-related
events, accidents, etc.
medium term (months to years): droughts, social
disruptions (war, etc.), migration, water quality, environmental degradation including
effects of human activities, economic factors etc.
long term (years to decades): climate change, population
A basic water requirement of around 50 l/day/person
should be recognized as a basic human right and be the primary goal for all developing
Measures to avert water conflicts should be promoted,
including co-operation, exchange of information, etc.
The water and sanitation budget should have a higher
share of the national development budget.
Water quality issues are as important as water quantity
issues and the two should be considered together.
The water community should perpetually collect scientific
and socio-economic data.
Many types of expertise, both in the social and
scientific domain, should be mobilized to address water scarcity issues.
It is vital to re-emphasize the need for short-term and
medium-term policies to have long-term perspectives.
An integrated approach is needed for short-term and
long-term planning to meet future water requirements (supply and demand), as well as joint
management of surface and groundwater, while accounting for all uses: basic human needs,
environmental sustainability, agriculture, recreation and economic uses. This should be
done at the global, continental, regional, river basin, national, local levels, etc.
In developing countries where data are unavailable or
insufficient, better assessment of water resources availability can be achieved using
Water should be recognized as an economic, environmental
and social good. Beyond the basic necessity of 50 l/day/person, water should be paid for,
taking into account the social and environmental impacts.
Education and increased awareness are paramount
prerequisites to deal with water extremes. This could be done by strengthening national
Both modern and traditional approaches to water supply
management need to be taken advantage of, while recognizing different cultural backgrounds
and indigenous management techniques.
There is a need to fight water scarcity by promoting
appropriate and efficient water use and re-use in agriculture and industry.
Water demand management needs to be actively promoted in
water scarce areas.
The effective means to reduce death tolls caused by
flooding are advance warning and evacuation.
It should be recognized that flooding causes more loss of
human life and greater economic losses than most other natural water-related disasters.
Big cities along major rivers could be protected by
superdikes and other redevelopment techniques.
Flood control in small basins can use the following
measures: retardation facilities such as ponds, infiltration facilities, drainage
facilities, flood proofing techniques, and quantitative precipitation forecasts.
Flood control for large rivers can be accomplished
through an integrated approach including:
non-structural measures (letting
rivers flood naturally, flood forecasting, flood warning, evacuation, etc.), and/or,
structural measures (levees, flood
diversion, sediment control facilities, etc.).
Economic and Social Aspects of Water Resources
There is broad-based agreement that water services should
not be free of charge but paid for by the beneficiaries at a socially affordable level
beyond basic minimum need. Account should also be taken of the social value of water,
which is directly linked to water scarcity, the water-related differences between poor and
rich countries and between the users of water themselves. An economic approach to water
valuation does not mean that everybody has to pay a high price. Instead of ascribing an
economic value, water should be accounted for at its opportunity cost so that its social
utility may be estimated in financial terms; an economic value cannot include all values
attributed to water.
Further studies are necessary to gain a better
understanding of the value of water in its different uses and the scale of water
Agriculture, the main water user, is the most sensitive
sector for water pricing and water transfers. Water pricing could be applied to
rationalize this dominant water use and to compensate for the social consequences of water
It is essential to ensure efficiency, transparency and
accountability in water resources management as a prerequisite for sound financial
Pricing water and water services is necessary not only
for economic reasons but also because it will improve allocation of limited water
resources between competing users. However, the basic minimum water needs must first be
met in all countries.
The traditional framework based on the distinction between
privately owned and public water is changing. More and more, water is considered to be
Improved analysis is required of: (1) the consequences of
sharing responsibilities between the local and regional level (in the two-level management
system); (2) the role of the private sector and of regulatory institutions; and (3)
trading on water transfers between users, especially during droughts.
Impact assessment of land use and climate change on water
resources should be improved. This calls for a multidisciplinary approach.
Integrated water resources management must take into
account economic, social and environmental aspects. The 'polluter-pays' principle,
'user-pays' approach, 'precautionary principle', etc, may be used. However, before
applying these, we must consider the socio-environmental aspects and how much users can
afford to pay. There is a need for horizontal integration between users, for instance
through institutional development, as well as vertical integration harmonizing local and
national interests. Social and political stability is an essential feature of sustainable
development that cannot be achieved by following only economic indicators. Water
desalinization will be a viable approach for drinking water in arid countries.
Equity is necessary to move towards equality.
There is no global water market yet; on the contrary,
several smaller sectorial water markets are functional. The viability of market mechanisms
in water resources management should be studied.
Public involvement can vary from consultation to full
participation. Water has potential as a powerful tool for co-operation and peace-making.
In the past, several international water agreements have been signed even when the parties
to the agreement were fighting over other issues.
If we want to involve all stakeholders in the planning,
design and funding of water projects, programmes are needed which enhance public awareness
of the issues, particularly among women and young people.
It is necessary to analyse the different aspects of this
participation through inquiries and social studies which take into account the needs of
There is a need for studies on the cultural aspects of
water, consumer behaviour, and the willingness to pay for water and water services.
This new multidisciplinary approach requires
collaboration and communication between water specialists and sociologists, for instance
through special symposia.
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